SAP BW business content; how useful is it?

by Arwold Koelewijn on October 28, 2012

One of the main advantages of using SAP BW as a datawarehouse in an SAP ecosystem is the way it connects with the SAP source system. This is established with the use of so-called Business Content (BI Content). But how useful is it?

BI Content is a preconfigured set of consistent metadata in SAP BW that represents the entire process flow from extraction of data originating in SAP systems, to data warehousing, to reporting. Providing complete solutions for business information needs, BI Content enables fast and cost-effective implementation of SAP BW.
According to SAP, BI Content can:

  1. be used in specific industries without the need to modify it
  2. be adapted so that you can work with it to any degree of detail
  3. serve as a template or as an example for customer-defined BI Content.

Typically, when businesses acquire SAP BW, the emphasis is on the first option, which is also used as an unique selling point. In my experience, this is the option which is (almost) never used. And even though I am a supporter of the business content, I always advice my clients to modify it, or use the BI content for prototyping purposes.

What is very useful of the BI content is the interfacing between the SAP source systems and the BW system. To be specific: Extractor programs for SAP systems, DataSources, InfoObjects and InfoSources. With these it is very easy to build a solid extraction layer for the datawarehouse, which benefits from the SAP knowledge of the SAP systems datamodels.

A recent example: a value booked in the controlling module of SAP didn’t show in the BW system. However, the interfacing was done with a Business Content extractor. After a small investigation, it turned out that the masterdata had not been maintained correctly in the source system. When this was corrected, the values showed in BW.

What I find not so useful of the BI content are the elements that have to do with the user-interface, the webtemplates, queries and things related with that. These are typically not good enough as an end-product. They can be used for prototyping, but rather than going through the effort of understanding these, it is easier to build some yourself.
Also the BI content is not what is considered best practice datawarehouseing (i.e. using an extraction layer, business logic layer, infocubes, multicubes, queries exclusively on multicubes), that enables implementing future changes more easily. The BI content delivers a lot of building blocks that help building the best practice flow without too much effort.

To summarize, BI content is very useful for establishing the interfaces with SAP systems, and for providing the building blocks for best-practice datawarehousing. However, it can never be used as an end-product without modification.

In conclusion: BI content is very useful and definitely enables a fast en cost-effective implementation, but never without some modifications needed.

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